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Adviser Backs Away From Nazarbaev's Succession Comments

The adviser suggested that the president's son-in-law, Timur Kulibaev, seen next to the president at a Foreign Investors Council meeting in Astana in May, would lead Kazakhstan if President Nursultan Nazarbaev had to step down for any reason.
ASTANA -- A Kazakh presidential adviser says his statements regarding President Nursultan Nazarbaev's possible successor were his own thoughts and not something he discussed with the president, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Yermukhamet Yertysbaev had suggested in an interview with the Russian weekly "Kommersant" on July 25 that the president's son-in-law, Timur Kulibaev, would lead Kazakhstan if Nazarbaev had to step down for any reason.

Yertysbaev's statement came several days after media outlets in Europe, Russia, and Kazakhstan reported that Nazarbaev was hospitalized and had surgery in a clinic in northern Germany.

Kulibaev, 44, is the husband of Nazarbaev's second daughter, Dinara Nazarbaeva. He leads Kazakhstan's powerful Samruk-Qazyna fund that unites the country's major strategic funds.

In an interview with the Kazakh state news agency KazTAG on July 26, Kulibaev said he was surprised by Yertysbaev's statement, adding that he was not a politician but a businessman and economist.

Kulibaev suggested it was unethical to talk about succession issues in Kazakhstan while rumors about Nazarbaev's health were circulating.

Fugitive Kazakh businessman and politician Mukhtar Ablyazov, who lives in self-imposed exile in Europe, told RFE/RL on July 26 that he thought the current political situation in Kazakhstan ruled out statements like Yertysbaev's without Nazarbaev's approval.

"It looks like Nazarbaev's illness is progressing and he knows about it, therefore a possible power succession has been very likely discussed within the first family," Ablyazov said. He speculated that the succession of power might take place within half a year.

Serikbolsyn Abdildin, a veteran opposition politician and the former head of Kazakhstan's Communist Party, told RFE/RL that Nazarbaev was "testing the waters" via his adviser's comment "to check [the reaction by] Kulibaev, the parliament speaker, other deputies, the prime minister, and others" to the idea of his son-in-law succeeding him as president.

Abdildin described it as "one of Nazarbaev's old, well-known tactics."

The Kazakh Constitution states that the head of the upper house of parliament is to replace the president in case he becomes incapacitated.

Nazarbaev has ruled Kazakhstan since it gained independence in 1991.

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